Corruption Versus Moral Values [Archives:1999/17/Last Page]

April 26 1999

It is shocking and disturbing to see our moral values eroded. The withering away is dramatic.
Let me use a personal experience to explain what I am saying.
One time, while I was walking around with a friend, out of the blue, a speeding car almost over-ran my friend, had I not pushed him aside in the last seconds. It was one of those huge and fancy 4-wheel drive cars popularly known as “Laila Alawi” – fashionable among our senior politicians, government officials, sheikhs and other influential people.
This hazardous moment changed the focal point of my view of the epidemic virus devouring the whole structure of the society. He was enthusiastically and firmly saying that everybody should be corrupt so as to prosper and hit the big time. It is not only that, he tried to convince me that even ordinary clerks could not ensure their survival unless they become corrupt and bribers. What he said actually overwhelmed me with surprise. Not only that, his odd and freak ideas created ripples in my mind. He went on arguing that being an honest person means leading a very miserable life, full of poverty and unhappiness. To illustrate his argument, he started giving some examples. He said that he knew some people who all of a sudden and in a flash became well to do, sitting on a bed of luxury. It is because of nothing but being officials at the customs authority.
Actually, some people receive a salary of 10,000 YR per month. Paradoxically, they spend more than 2-300 per day only for qat let alone the other family expenses. How come? Isn’t this something incredible? Where does all this money come from and what is their source? The answer comes casually: bribery and other illegal means. This is because some other officials receive the same amount and hardly could they keep their body and soul together. Their dignity and honesty prevent them from taking money under the table. My friend was giving vivid examples to highlight the big chasm between the two types of the salaried people. Instead of eulogizing and approving the people who take to and observe honesty and morality, they are seen as lacking the attributes and characters of manliness and strong personality. In fact, embezzlement, bribery, … etc. have become signs of one being courageous and alert. Most cynically, one being honest is a sign of foolishness, being novice and lacking experience. This is the main criterion for putting people into categories and differentiating between the “alert” and “non-alert” today. To add insult to injury, if one is a new employee at any office and wants to perform his job dutifully, the old rotten apples won’t let him off. Further, the more he/she goes on the right track, the more pitfalls and tricks they will create for him/her, or at least the person will be isolated. “Be clever and alert lest you should be lost” was the closing “advice” of my friend when saying good-bye.
I was left in a daze. It is, in fact, disheartening and it freaks me out to hear such a pessimistic tone even from university students, the most illuminated figures of the society. His speech is an indicator of how fast corruption is working in the whole body of the society. Furthermore, it has become an ordinary routine and way of life. This is very hazardous, heralding ominous tomorrows for the coming generations. It is very frightening to feel that the institutions of the society are perverted and corrupted. This state is encouraged by the state of lawlessness and unaccountability. Therefore, we can not expect any real growth and development in a society where most of its institutions are easy prey for corruption. And we should not expect any reform or development while the majority of our institutions are corrupted.
Accountability is the key word of development, for corruption is the major hindrance of development and evolution.
As a matter of fact, the state of lawlessness and absence of accountability is the main motive behind the degeneration of the moral values of the people, for when one takes bribes and is never held accountable and even if he is so, he will apply some method with the judges or whoever else to prove himself innocent and “honest.” So, we can say that the state of poverty and the perversion and corruption of the judicial system feed on each other and help spread corruption amongst the other institutions and establishments of the society. This is because these two elements are behind the perversion of the mortality of the people. The need of money will force people to sacrifice everything, including their honesty and dignity, of course, this is not to generalize, for there are honest people who can not be sold out to the devil whatever the price. What I want to say is that the corruption, to speak generally, is behind the withering of the moral norms. Of course, when I talk about corruption in general I include in it the state of unaccountability which makes people think of morality as something of the past and they become money-hungry. They become very selfish and seek after interests through various legal or illegal means, leaving their morality behind their backs. This is why some people could hit the jackpot in a very short time. What is worse is that even universities, the most revered institutions and illumination halos of the society, have been perverted and corrupted too, for university certificates have been sold through falsification. What more should we expect?
Well, I believe the perversion and corruption of the institutes of the society can be fought against if the people in authority are serious about it. But, if the most important institution of the society, that is the institution of moral values, is perverted and corrupted, then it becomes very difficult to stop this very hazardous epidemic virus. Building human civilization nations does not depend only on economic evolution and building skyscrapers, but also the castles of human and moral values. This is because in a society where dishonesty, for example, is found, we should not expect any real growth to take place. The European civilization today offers a good example. So, are we all aware of this?
By: Mohammed Hatem Al Qadhi
Taiz Office Editor,
Yemen Times